She spat at a domestic helper, ripped off her tudung, and stepped on her foot over a period of three months.
Suriyati Matrawee, 41, even let her eight-year-old daughter get away with abusing their Indonesian maid, Intan Atikah, 28, as well.
Suriyati, who has two other sons, aged 7 and 4, was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail on Wednesday (28 June) on two counts of using criminal force and one count of voluntarily causing hurt. Three other counts of using criminal force were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Investigations revealed that Intan was employed by Suriyati from April 2015 to March 2016.
Throughout her employment period, Intan was frequently abused and humiliated by members of the household, including Suriyati’s daughter, who began hitting Intan’s face and arms in June 2015. Intan reported the girl’s actions to Suriyati, who didn’t do anything about it.
Neighbours who suspected that the maid was being abused called the police on several occasions, reporting loud noises and crying from Suriyati’s unit. Neighbours had also spotted bruises on Intan in September 2015.
Incidents of abuse
On 12 December 2015, while Intan was ironing clothes in the living room, Suriyati became angry as the maid was unable to finish her task on time. Suriyati then spat on Intan’s face five times. Suriyati was rebuked by her husband, who told her not to treat the maid with such condescension, but Suriyati ignored him and continued to spit at Intan.
Neighbours called the police due to the commotion but when the police arrived at the flat, Suriyati hugged the maid and begged her to tell the police that nothing had happened. As Intan hoped to continue her working for Suriyati, whom she believed would change, Intan said nothing of the abuse.
According to Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Jeyeraj, Intan felt insulted and humiliated after being spat on.
Later that night, while Intan was working in the kitchen, Suriyati pulled Intan towards her by her shirt, scolded her and stomped on her left foot with her right root. Intan sustained bruising and swelling on her left foot, but did not see a doctor as Suriyati had told her not to tell anyone about the incident.
On 27 February 2016, Intan accompanied Suriyati and her family to Choa Chu Kang Cemetery by car. However, on their return, Suriyati abused Intan by ripping off her tudung with both hands. Suriyati blamed Intan for not looking after her children, who had been running around in the cemetery.
Intan tried to stop Suriyati but the employer pushed her hands away and continued to tug at the tudung until it came off. Her eight-year-old daughter assisted her in the act and hit Intan’s back.
When the tudung came off and fell on the car floor, Suriyati stepped on it and later threw it away. Intan was distressed and insulted by her actions, said DPP Jeyaraj.
On 6 March, Intan woke up 10 minutes late as she had been caring for Suriyati’s ill mother throughout the night. However, Suriyati got upset with Intan and called her a “bitch” and “prostitute”.
Intan decided to leave the house after the name-calling and ran to the staircase outside the unit in a bid to escape. A neighbour observed Intan clinging to the staircase railing while Suriyati and a man tried to drag her away. The two managed to pry Intan’s hand away from the railing and carried her into the flat. The neighbour, who reported hearing a loud bang from the unit and Intan crying loudly, called the police.
When the police arrived, Intan told them about the abuse and was referred to a doctor, who noted bruising over her right eye.
Suriyati had also attempted to withhold Intan’s salary from her on two occasions. She didn’t give Intan her salary between October and December 2015 and only relented after police visited the flat on 12 December 2015 in response to a call that they received.
In January and February 2016, when the abuse began to escalate, the employer again withheld Intan’s salary for these two months. She has since paid Intan all her outstanding salary.
Judge to Suriyati
District Judge Mathew Joseph had harsh words for Suriyati, whom he said had abused her position of authority as an employer.
He noted that the abuse had been over a period of three months, describing Suriyati’s actions as “deplorable and foolish”.
“If not for your neighbours and police intervention, you will carry on. Your actions were bold and wide-ranging and escalating over time,” said DJ Joseph.
He said that it was “humiliating and degrading” and the “ultimate insult” to spit in someone’s face, and that Suriyati had done it five times continuously.
Suriyati also had the “shameless audacity” to hug the maid and ask her to tell the police that nothing had happened, added DJ Joseph.
He said to Suriyati, “I hope you learned your lesson and never do this again.”
For voluntarily causing hurt, Suriyati could have been jailed up to two years and/or fined $5,000. For criminal force, she could have been jailed up to three months and/or fined $1,500.
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